This Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese is over the top delicious. Loaded with bacon, sausage, and extra cheese before getting a tender kiss of hardwood smoke. You may not know it yet, but this is your new favorite food. Your death-row last meal request. Are you ready for that kind of commitment? Well then, friend, read on.
I think mac and cheese needs to be indulgent. It is comfort food, after all. So keep that in mind as you read the ingredients list, mmmmk? My favorite thing about this dish (in addition to the awesome flavor) is the ease of preparation. One skillet. No separate pot of hot water or additional baking dishes required. Everything is cooked together, even the noodles, which results in the creamiest mac & cheese to ever hit your tongue. The noodles absorb all of the flavor from the bacon, sausage, and jalapenos while it cooks. Every bite is equally as delicious as the one before.
After spending a couple of years perfecting the Stuffed Jalapeno Popper, I knew it was time to take those flavors and put it in a pasta! I think it is pretty standard to throw some cream cheese in a jalapeno, wrap it in bacon, and call it a jalapeno popper. Alas, simplicity was never my strong suite. I took the base flavors and went a little off course and drove that flavor train into meat depot. I added browned bratwursts, melty cheese, and topped the whole thing with my signature Sweet Rub. They are the best poppers ever, and now all the flavors I love are all floating around in every bite of this Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese. I even baked the mac & cheese on my smoker so it would have that same signature smoky flavor as my poppers!
PRO-TIP: If you don’t have a smoker, you can still get a bit of smoky flavor in your mac & cheese. Make sure you buy apple wood smoked bacon at the store! You can follow the rest of the instructions, just skip the smoking step and bake at the same temperature in your oven instead of on your grill.
Final note before you jump in and fulfill all of your wildest food fantasies, mac and cheese is always about preference! My husband prefers mac and cheese straight out of the skillet, no baking time. He likes it extra saucy (which, I mean, duh). I like my mac and cheese baked and a little more set up. You’ve gotta go with what you like! If you’re an extra sauce person, I would recommend giving your jalapeno mac and cheese about 20 minutes on the smoker so it still gets that flavor, but doesn’t get the heat required to get everything set up. If you like it baked, follow the instructions as written below!
- 1/2 pound bacon diced
- 1 link uncooked bratwurst casing removed
- 2 jalapenos seeds removed and finely diced
- 1 8 oz brick cream cheese
- 8 oz uncooked elbow macaroni noodles
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups marbled cheddar shredded
- 1/4 cup butter crackers (like Ritz) crushed
- 1 jalapeno thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon Homemade Sweet Rub http://heygrillhey.com/recipe/best-sweet-rub-grilled-pork-chicken/
- Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees, if you plan on smoking. Also preheat your oven to 400 degrees if you're grill won't hit that temperature (if you're not smoking the mac and cheese first, only preheat your oven).
- Preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Brown the bacon and sausage. Stir in the diced jalapenos and cook 2-3 minutes, until softened.
- Stir in the cream cheese and mix until well combined. Pour in the noodles, water, milk, and cream. Cook, stirring regularly, until the noodles have absorbed a majority of the liquid (about 8-10 minutes).
- Turn off the heat and carefully stir in the garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cheese until everything is all melted together. Sprinkle the top with the sweet rub, the buttered crackers, and the thin jalapeno slices.
- Place the mac and cheese in the smoker and smoke for 30 minutes. Either transfer your mac and cheese to the hot oven or increase your grill temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 8-10 minutes at the higher temperature and you're ready to serve!